As Euro 2012 reaches the climax of the group stages it is fair to say that the tournament has certainly delivered so far in terms of entertainment and drama.

Even for seasoned football watchers, often dreading these kinds of competitions, the action and fascinating tactical battles have gripped us.  As a bonus, in an age of wall-to-wall TV coverage of leagues around the world, there have even been some surprise players to get acquainted with.

Debate has raged for years on just what it takes to win such a tournament.  Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away by the quality of players in a team like Spain or Germany, however football is first and foremost a team game, and it’s the team that can become the greatest sum of its parts that wins the day.  You only have to look back to Euro 2004 when Greece won it, or Euro 1992 when the Danes came off the beach to win it, to see that a set of great individuals do not always triumph against a well drilled team all performing to their best.

It’s the same way for marketing, it isn’t always necessarily the biggest budgets or the flashiest developments that win out.  Marketing that outperforms expectations and is part of a well balanced, well constructed strategy will win out over a collection of underperforming expensive campaigns any year (the Netherlands I’m looking at you v Denmark).

So how do you get the blend right?  Ok, Roy Hodgson’s England may not be everyone’s idea of the champions in the making, indeed they haven’t even got out of the group just yet.  But, Roy’s England have shown signs of having more of a team structure than they have had at any major tournament for years.

In the same way, constructing a solid, well performing marketing strategy starts with building from the back.

The Back Five – Your Core

Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole – some could say England’s great strength is their defence.  In football becoming defensively strong is the best starting point.  Getting organised and being hard to beat takes time, dedication and a clear strategy and structure.  Hours are spent on the training field drilling everyone in their roles.

In strategic marketing terms this can be applied to your existing customer marketing, your retention strategy.  A strategy made up of all those core things that ensure you keep the customers you’ve worked so hard to win.  It is so important to spend time working on these, reviewing them and drilling them.  Organisation is the most important thing.  You can achieve this with superb use of data, understanding not just what you think is happening, but really understanding the reality of it.

Retention marketing doesn’t mean boring marketing, just like your defensive back 5 you can have world class elements.  Ashley Cole is capable of turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye, whilst Joleon Lescott has shown that sometimes your dependable, defensive ‘players’ can get you key goals.

The Midfield Mix – Box to Box

Milner, Gerrard, Parker, The Ox/Young – the pivotal role within the England side.  Whatever the tactical permutations of the midfield the basic rules never change.  Your midfield are there to win you the ball back and get it into the attackers.  Within the England side you have Gerrard and Parker very much in the disciplined central roles.  These two are there to protect the defensive heart of the side, whilst also being the starting point for many attacks, mainly through spreading the ball quickly out to the wings (or into Rooney when he is back).  Meanwhile the wingers Oxlade-Chamberlain (The OX), Ashley Young and stunningly Theo Walcott are given the task of providing that bit of pace, power and trickery to beat the opposition and deliver crosses, passes and goals.  James Milner too has this role, but is perhaps more tactically disciplined than the others, also protecting his full-back (who likes to attack).

Marketing –wise it is your midfield where you find your more quirky marketing outlets.  There will be a blend of retention and acquisition tools that are sitting outside of your regular/core tools.  By creating a strong defensive core, your midfield area allows you to deal with those requests and situations that crop up without warning.  Opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t know where they fit can be dealt with effectively.  Similarly, those kinds of requests that can throw your entire strategy out of the window if you aren’t organised.  Your midfield can deal with these as they are disciplined enough to not stray from the important tasks of retention, but ‘off the cuff’ enough to adapt to new tools and disciplines.  Again, sometimes they can prove to be the most effective part of your strategic approach by cropping up with important goals of their own.

The Attacking Glory – Striking

Welbeck, Carroll/Rooney – the finishers; the players that are there to finish your attacks off.  The reason the strikers get paid the big money is that they are there to score the goals.  Welbeck in particular is capable of playing a lone role up front supported by deeper lying players.  The return of Rooney to the side should see England even more potent in attack, as he provides a superb link between the midfield and the attack whilst being capable of world class strikes.  All three have shown that they are capable of providing a threat in different ways, which always gives the opposition a different problem to solve.

In the same way the attack in your marketing strategy should revolve around acquisition and focus on growing your position (ie. increasing your score!).  Of the whole strategy it is the acquisition elements that are attracting new customers, winning new business and through innovation and constantly moving they are difficult for your opposition to stay in touch with.  It is the part of your strategy where it is a good idea to take care over researching your opposition and finding the gaps in their defence, whilst also playing to your strengths by understanding where you are stronger than them.  A marketing Strategy Canvass is a fantastic way of priming your acquisition strategy.

Bringing it together

Like any good team, the current England side has a strong ‘spine’ running from Joe Hart in goal through the central defence and Gerrard in midfield to Rooney up front.  Any pundit worth their salt will tell you how important such a spine is.

The same goes for your marketing strategy.  Creating a strong spine to your strategy is key, and this can be achieved through your brand.  By which I mean ensuring you have a strong brand that you are living by and does what it says – delivers your promise.  Such a strong brand will have the added benefit of pulling your activities together, knitting them into a winning strategy.

Of course, developing a strong, well organised and committed marketing team is just as important in implementing your strategy, but starting with a, sometimes, simple strategic aim, and building a side capable of delivering that, just as Uncle Roy (as he is known in our house) has done, can bring huge rewards.

Ok, you may not win Euro 2012, but on the plus side at least you won’t be made into a piece of veg on the front page of The Sun.

Simon Brooke is a Director at Happy Creative, a full service marketing and creative agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to www.happy-creative.co.uk or @Happy_Creative

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